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Chance, pure and simple, has been the greatest factor in the
production of varieties of American grapes. From the millions of wild
plants, an occasional grape of pre-eminent merit has caught the eye of
the cultivator and has been brought into the vineyard to be the
progenitor of a new variety. Or in the vineyards, more often in
near-by waste lands, from the prodigious number of seedlings that
spring up, pure or cross-bred, a plant of merit becomes the foundation
of a new variety. An interesting fact in the domestication of the four
chief species of American grapes is that none came under cultivation
until forms of them, striking in value, had been found. Catawba,
representing the Labrusca grapes; the Scuppernong, the Rotundifolias;
Norton, from Vitis aestivalis; Delaware and Herbemont from the
Bourquiniana grapes; and Clinton from Vitis vulpina, are, after a
century, scarcely excelled, although in each species there are now
many new varieties.

That our best grapes have come from chance is not because of a lack of
human effort to produce superior varieties. Of all fruits, the grape
has received most attention in America from the generation of
plant-breeders just passing. Grape-breeders have produced 2000 or more
varieties, a medley of the heterogeneous characters of a dozen
species. That so many of this vast number are worthless is due more to
a lack of knowledge of plant-breeding than to a lack of effort, for
the order and system in plant-breeding that now prevail, disclosed by
recent brilliant discoveries, were unknown to grape-breeders of the
last century.

Next: Grape Hybrids

Previous: Domestic Uses For Grapes

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